March 15, 2002
Release moved up from April 5, 2002
Hollywood's recent trend of developing popular video games into feature films continues with this title, which first gained popularity on the Sony PlayStation. While many of these converted game projects require quite a stretch in concept and theme in order to create a full-length feature script, this film proves to be an exception.
The basic premise here is simple: soldiers meet the undead.
In the world of Resident Evil, a few experienced military specialists from the special-ops strike force known as STARS encounter strange circumstances in the small town of Raccoon City, which is located near a mysterious Umbrella-owned chemical facility called The Hive. What the fighters discover as they do reconnaissance is that an accident in the Umbrella laboratory has released a virus into the local community. This mutagen has the unfortunate side effect of turning humans into ravenous, flesh-eating zombies; dogs into rabid, feral carnivores; and sharks into...well, let's just say it's not pretty. The small company has only three hours to prevent the toxic chemical from reaching the atmosphere and effectively ending civilization.
It had been speculated that since the game is in part an homage to the films of George Romero, he would be the natural choice for writing and directing duties on the project. Unfortunately, Sony rejected his script and instead chose to hire Paul Anderson to helm the project. He does have experience in the big-screen conversions of a videogame, Mortal Kombat, and has done fine work in the horror genre with Event Horizon. He was not, however, the people's choice, so he is under a great deal of scrutiny from the game's loyal fan base.
The film's cast is front-lined by two female leads, Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez. Milla is best known for her work as Leeloo in The Fifth Element and as Joan of Arc in The Messenger. She has a spotty track record at the box office, but this is because she generally eschews blockbuster-type films. Rodriguez, on the other hand, is coming off of the blockbuster hit The Fast and the Furious, following an extraordinary performance as a boxer in Girlfight. At the tender age of 23, she is well on her way to stardom. The two of them are bold, intriguing choices to play military operatives and they offer a lot of appeal to both women who want to see empowered female characters and to men who want to see hot babes kick ass.
As we can see from the description, this video game-turned=motion picture has the potential to be highly marketable in a similar fashion to Tomb Raider, and even has a better premise on paper than that title. It does, however, bear noting that the film does share a striking similarity to John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, so its box-office success is hardly a foregone conclusion, considering that title's poor performance. In addition, games that are turned into movies have had scattershot success in Hollywood. For every Mortal Kombat or Tomb Raider, there is a Double Dragon or Final Fantasy. Trailers will go a long way in determining which fate befalls Resident Evil. (David Mumpower/BOP)